In family law, it’s rare to encounter a divorce that doesn’t provoke strong feelings in at least one of the parties. While our focus is typically on the adults, it’s vital we don’t neglect the impact a separation can have on the children involved. This impact can manifest itself in several ways.
From a legal perspective, it’s vital to follow the separation or parenting plan you and your former partner agreed to, or was ordered by the court. That being said, it’s common for bumps in the road to interfere with your ability to follow it precisely. When a couple part, a child can express their desire not to visit with the other parent – even if there’s a separation agreement in place that grants access rights. What are the options if this situation develops? First of all, it’s vital to establish why your child isn’t interested in visiting their parent.
Common Reasons Why a Child Refuses to Visit Their Parent
Children lead largely regimented lives defined by a regular routine. They get up, they go to school, they play sports etc. For some, disruption to this routine can cause distress. This scenario is often the root of why some children aren’t keen on visiting their parent. Some specific causes include:
- The parent lives far from their school, activities, friends or other things they enjoy
- Your child doesn’t like the rules laid out when staying with your former spouse
- Your child doesn’t get on with other people living in the home, such as a new partner
- Your child blames the parent for your separation
How to Resolve These Scenarios
Talk to your child and try to find out why they don’t want to visit. Let them know you won’t get angry and be careful to listen. Try to remain impartial and keep your child removed from any lingering conflict between you and your former partner. It’s normal for the child to be hesitant in sharing their concerns, and it might take more than one discussion for the truth to emerge. This is normal and most children will only open up when they feel comfortable.
Legal Issues Around Refusing Visitation
From a legal point of view, if the reason for non-visitation does not directly impact on the safety or well-being of the child, they should attend the visitation as scheduled. In fact, if your child is refusing to spend time with, or stay with, their other parent, you have a responsibility to resolve the issue. To not do so could put the family in a tough legal position.
If the issue isn’t immediately solvable, it’s vital to notify the other parent in a way that creates a record, and document exactly what occurred with the child. At this point, we also recommend speaking to a family law expert and discussing your options. If your child has safety concerns over visiting their parent, you have the right to go to court to change the terms of access.
Here to Help
If you have any questions about the divorce process, separation agreements or custody agreements, our family law experts at Westside Family Law are standing by to assist. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.